An Ontario man who survived abuse at the hands of a now-convicted Catholic priest has taken his 111-week protest to the doorstep of Toronto’s Catholic Church.
William O’Sullivan says was inspired to travel from Niagara to Toronto by the CityTV documentary, “Veracity: Unrepentant,” which uncovers how an order of priests known as the Basilian Fathers shuffled perpetrators through schools and communities.
“This is yet another example of how priests were involved in systemic predation of children not just in Niagara, but all over Canada. That’s why we need a public inquiry,” he says in a statement. “How did they get away with it so long? How much did it cost Canadian communities all these years in mental health, addiction and social services dealing with all these broken adults? Not to mention the heartbreaking human costs to victims and families.”
This winter, O’Sullivan plans to walk from Niagara to Ottawa to raise public awareness and support for an inquiry. A House of Commons petition he started with the support of Niagara Centre Member of Parliament Vince Badawey has garnered more than 1,200 names. It closes at the end of November.
“To any survivor who has not found the courage like I have, I am your voice, and I will speak daily until I am ash.”
One of O’Sullivan’s abusers was former Catholic priest Donald Grecco – who was convicted of abusing him and five other children and sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2017.
O’Sullivan started his day’s protest in front of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s headquarters on Yonge Street, and planned to continue in front of Basilian Father’s worldwide headquarters, and then at St. Michael’s College School, which is run by the Basilians.
He is calling on the Canadian Catholic Church to officially apologize to all survivors. He is also calling on all diocese (the Catholic bureaucracies that run regional branches of the church) to release lists of priests who face multiple accusations of abusing children.
“I would love to see every single diocese open up these files,” he tells CityNews. “If you have more than three accusations against the same priests, come forward with these names, because then other survivors will come forward.”
The Basilians have released statements to CityNews apologizing for the abuse and outlining their current policies for handling sexual assault allegations.
A small group of supporters have joined O’Sullivan at his protests. He is usually at St. Kevin’s Parish Church in Welland, Ont., where Grecco had been a priest.
He says that since he began his protests more than two years ago, seven more people claiming to be victims of Grecco have come forward to him in confidence.
“To the survivors of the priests from here in Toronto, know that I am a voice for you if you are not a voice,” he says. “To any survivor who has not found the courage like I have, I am your voice, and I will speak daily until I am ash.”